Matt. 18:15-20 Pt 1

I will give the text in Greek, then in English (NAS)

15 Ἐὰν δὲ ἁμαρτήσῃ [εἰς σὲ] ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου. ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου· 16 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα· 17 ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης. 18 Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν· ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ.

19 Πάλιν [ἀμὴν] λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν δύο συμφωνήσωσιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς περὶ παντὸς πράγματος οὗ ἐὰν αἰτήσωνται, γενήσεται αὐτοῖς παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς. 20 οὗ γάρ εἰσιν δύο ἢ τρεῖς συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, ἐκεῖ εἰμι ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν.

15 “If your brother sins [fn: against you], go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Textual and Issues:

There are really only two textual variants that call for attention. In 18:15, we have face the question whether the words “against you” (singular) is original. The manuscript evidence is divided, but early mss tend not to have the phrase. The listing of translations shows the variety; when a footnote is included about the manuscript differences, it is noted in parentheses.

omit clause   B 0281 ƒ1 579 sa bopt ; Orlem

NAS (fn), NIV (fn), GW (fn), NJB, REB, NET (fn)

“against you” D K L N W Γ Δ Θ 078 ƒ13 33. 565. 700. 892. 1241. 1424 M latt sy mae bopt

NKJV, HCSB (fn), ESV (no fn), NRSV (fn), NLT (no fn), NAB [bracketed]

NET has an extended footnote that is worth noting.

The earliest and best witnesses lack “against you” after “if your brother sins.” …However, if the MSS were normally copied by sight rather than by sound, especially in the early centuries of Christianity, such an unintentional change is not as likely for these MSS. And since scribes normally added material rather than deleted it for intentional changes, on balance, the shorter reading appears to be original. NA27 includes the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity.

I think it is easier to explain the addition of the phrase as a later manuscript change, which would match Peter’s question in 18:21 “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” Thus, the original would seem to lack the two words. In a later post, I will consider the implications of this difference.

The other texual issue involves how to translate the verbs in 18:18. There are varieties of ways to translate this verse:

HCSB I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

ESV Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

(fn: shall have been bound . . .  shall have been loosed)

NIV “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

(fn: “will have been” in both cases)

NKJV  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

As a future perfect passive participle I translate it this way:

ἔσται δεδεμένα (will have been bound) ἔσται future indicative; δεδεμένα middle perfect passive, neuter, nominative, plural

ἔσται λελυμένα (will have been loosed) ἔσται future indicative; λελυμένα middle perfect passive, neuter, nominative, plural

The idea behind this understanding of the verbs is when the disciple binds or looses (forgives) it will have already been bound or loosed by God in heaven prior to the declaration. So, the disciple is not in charge but declaring what God has already done.

On the other hand, if we accept the ESV or NIV (text) reading, then it would change the dynamics dramatically. The disciple now becomes the determiner of binding and loosing. That is, the disciple would seem to have the power to go and do any binding or loosing with the expectation that God has to come along forgive because the disciple has done the first act. More will be mentioned about this implications of this understanding as we explore all of 18:15-20.

Limits of this section

Sometimes Matthew 18:19-20 is used as a proof text for Christ’s presence with the gathering of any two or three Christians. The principle is itself okay, as it is supported elsewhere in Scripture. But in light of the two verses intimate connection with the preceding four verses, we have to interpret them as part of the entire section 15-20, not as a thought independent of its context.

For this study we will examine and interpret the totality of 15-20 rather than as two independent pericopes. This approach also then provides a natural segue into the following section, vv. 21-35.